In my last post, I wrote about the importance of making a writing schedule for yourself and sticking to it while working a day job or spending time on other creative endeavors. Now I’d like to share another technique that I often use in my process, particularly when I don’t have as much time to write as I would like.
This technique, which I call “sleepwriting,” is something you can use to both deepen your writing and to keep your mind working on your story subconsciously while you sleep. To be clear, this isn’t something that I do too often to brainstorm a story. It really works best after I’ve completed an outline and am in the thick of writing the first draft.
What I do is the following: At night, when I get into bed and close my eyes, I center myself a bit, as if I’m going into a meditation, and focus on the opening scene of my story. I take my time imagining it in my mind, trying to envision everything in that first location as vividly as possible. Then, when the “scene” is set, I let that opening moment start to play, as if the actors have just responded to me calling “action.”
I then proceed to methodically step through the beats of the story, a little more rapidly now, as if the whole story was a montage sequence. While I do this, I also keep a running tab of the outline, kind of seeing the words on the page simultaneously, and checking the beats off one by one as they flash by.
For me, this exercise is almost like counting sheep. I rarely recall finishing the story. I almost always float off to sleep somewhere in the middle of act two or three. Sometimes I even awaken from doing this with ideas, either for whole scenes or for little details that I can jot down for the next time I sit down to write. But the most valuable thing I get out of it is that when I do get back to the keyboard, I find that the scenes almost write themselves because they’re so firmly rooted in my subconscious. It’s not that I don’t have to buckle down and sweat over them at some point to really make them work. I’m not saying this is magic. It’s just another way of tapping the natural, archetypal mechanisms we all must tap into as writers, especially when by necessity, your mind needs to be occupied with other things for the majority of each day.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!